No Rhyme, No Reason: How our Subconscious Mind affects our Conscious Buying Decisions

August 21, 2019

Humans are strange beings. They say one thing and do the other.


Well in most cases, our subconscious mind makes decisions far before we are even consciously aware of the situation. On all the other occasions you are just too confused! 🙂

This brings us to the question – what is the subconscious?

Sigmund Freud, the famed yet sometimes questionable neurologist stated that a human brain is like an iceberg, split into 3 distinct sections – Conscious, PreConscious and Subconscious.

The top visible tip of the iceberg is our conscious mind. Decisions that our conscious mind takes are a result of logic or willpower. For example, thinking explicitly about what to cook for dinner or solving a math problem.

Beyond the tip, just within reach of the surface is our preconscious mind. This section is made up of the information that you already know and can access anytime, like your father’s birthday.

The biggest part of the iceberg that goes deep down into the water is our subconscious. Survival instincts and emotions drive this area. And this, in turn, affects our conscious behaviour.

Here’s a relatable scenario to make things clearer. Someone is on a diet and swears off junk food. But when they stand in line at the grocery shop, they look down and find their favourite bag of chips staring back. And suddenly, all that will power is gone and contradictory behaviour is triggered.

This someone may have been introduced to the different aspects of the chip brand’s marketing throughout the day. The mind picked up these cues and prompted a behaviour without the conscious even realising what is happening.

These automatic responses guide us during times of trouble. When there are so many choices and anxiety kicks in, visual cues trigger our subconscious mind to help make decision-making easier.

This happens to the best of us.

The Subconscious drives Emotions. The Emotions drive our Behaviour.

What makes the case for designing marketing efforts to trigger the subconscious mind even more strong is the impact it has on our emotions. Research shows that when our subconscious mind identifies a way to fulfil any goal, it produces a positive emotion. This triggers a decision/behaviour to reach that goal fulfilment.

The same happens when it identifies something that prevents goal fulfilment. Negative emotion is triggered, and a decision to avoid that behaviour is taken.


No matter how much we try to rationalise or give logic to our decisions, most of it happens through emotions. They are the ones that really drive our purchasing behaviours. We often justify what we buy by saying it was the “cheapest”, or it had the “best features” out of the options available.

But honestly, that’s all crap!

This idea is of great importance and understanding it has significantly defined the way we market, sell, and brand.

By only marketing the qualities of your product, you are likely to generate lacklustre results. This is the result of you completely missing the human, the subconscious element in the decision-making.

Like the old maxim goes – Sell the Sizzle, not the Steak!

So if you want someone to remember your brand, make them feel good about it. The key to success is to highlight the emotional response your consumer will achieve after using your product.

Examples of emotion-trigger marketing campaigns are everywhere. Think for a moment, what does your favourite brand sell? Is it the product or the life you will have after owning it?

Luxury brands trigger our feelings of acceptance, self-worth and high status in the world.

Source: iPhone

Communication devices excite us with the possibility of staying in touch with friends, family, and a broader network of people.

Source: Nokia

Athletic brands inspire us by offering adventure and the glory that the act of competition will bring.

Source: Nike

And products, like perfume, cologne and lingerie, target our emotions of love, relationships, and sexual desires.

Source: Victoria’s Secret

It all comes down to branding, which goes beyond just a logo, copywriting or packaging. It includes face to face interactions at retail stores, how you make them feel or even the tone in which your customer service talks to the consumer.

It’s the overall experience you provide that creates a perception of your brand in the minds of the people. They are developed through a lifetime of experiences. This could be through direct usage and interactions or indirect experiences like recommendations and exposure to advertising.

Brands use techniques like colour psychology, scarcity trigger, persuasive pricing and trust symbols to gain the trust of their audience.
Have you ever noticed why majorly all social media platforms use the colour blue? It can’t be all a coincidence, right? We get it, Twitter had a bird so the blue represents the sky and for Facebook, it was Mark’s colourblind choice.

But it goes way deeper than this.

Blue signifies trust, comfort and communication. It’s a go-to choice for many brands because it portrays it is both safe and reliable. Plus, it’s easy on the eyes and easily fades into the background when you switch your attention to some information.

Every colour evokes a different emotion. You just have to define the tone you want to set in the minds of your consumer base.

Okay, so one last example!

Coca Cola!
We all love it, but the company had its fair share of criticism over certain health and environmental concerns. In 2013, to boost sales and give the brand a positive uplift, Coca Cola launched a massive campaign called ‘Share a Coke’. Remember?

They put the most popular names from around 250 countries on their labels and encouraged the consumer to find a personalised bottle and share it with their family and friends using the hashtag #shareacoke.

The campaign was a massive success for Coca-Cola and sparked a huge response on social media. 53% of conversations on Twitter showed a positive sentiment, compared to 25% negative.

Memories, both implicit and explicit are also great triggers. To understand that, let’s take the energy drink mafioso, Red Bull as an example(Bonus!).

The core concept of the product is that it is a caffeinated drink consumed to boost energy. However, the brand built broader connections in the customer’s mind with its sponsorships in extreme sports events and the tagline: “Gives You Wings”.

These associations activate brand recall indirectly. For example, you could be viewing a sports program and may subconsciously link it to Red Bull.

You have to nurture these interactions, engagements and perspectives over the years with regular updates and consistency to create a healthy and positive brand perception. Aim to move from a novelty to familiarity and then an established habit.

We discuss the power of our Subconscious mind and how marketers can leverage it to boost their sales, in detail on the 24th of August 2019 at iKeva, Powai with our Speaker Dharmendra Rai. It’s a free workshop so do drop by to understand how you can sell your product/service to your prospects without even actually selling.

Here’s the link for you to register for our workshop –

Okay, I am done! Stepping out for a mountain-dew! 😉

See you at the venue.